More noise than signal

Get Out

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Before we say word one, this, more than most films we talk about would I believe benefit from you not knowing anything about it. To the extent that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve probably been over-exposed to it. Listen further at your own peril.

Photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous about meeting girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams)’s parents for the first time. Not just the usual apprehensions, as he’s a black guy heading into a very white suburb to meet a very white family. Not that Rose’s parents, neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener) disapprove of inter-racial relationships, but their attempts, Dean’s in particular, at making Chris feel welcome are clumsy to the point of, if not unintentional racism, at least cloth-eared insensitivity.

It transpires that Rose has forgotten that this particular upcoming weekend is her parent’s annual neighbourhood get-together, so all in all a great weekend of uneasy social interaction is promised. It’s enough to drive Chris to smoking, although Missy thinks she can hypnotise that craving out of him. Chris get some sympathy over the phone from his friend and TSA Officer Rod” Williams (Milton Howery), although mainly he gets a repeat of his advice that it was a bad idea to go in the first instance.

Before long, not only has Rose’s exuberant, weird brother Jeremy Caleb (Landry Jones) shown up, but the assorted oddballs of the neighbourhood have, who all treat Chris, well, weirdly. Really weirdly. And Chris notices the behaviour of the very few black people around is, also, weird. Really weird. And lo, weird things are indeed afoot, the details of which I suppose are best left to those who want to find them out themselves.

I was rather looking forward to Get Out, as it had been getting good notices from people who normally know their onions, and also horror films, it being primarily the horror movie expertise I was relying upon. The onion question will have to be resolved another day. Get Out does a number of things rather well, and I found myself very much wanting to like it. It’s a likeable film. The actors and performances are likeable. It’s likably written. The general concept is likeable. It’s got likeable production values.

I didn’t like it.

By which I don’t mean to say I hated, or even disliked it. It’s still a much better film than most horrors. Unfortunately it’s just a little frustrating, because it seems like minor changes would make it much more enjoyable.

Primarily, it could do with building a little bit more tension in the opening stretches, which it wasn’t doing too bad of a job with for about fifteen minutes. A lot of that tension deflates when the hypnosis element is introduced, and it’s introduced quite early indeed. It’s not the silliest thing that the film will throw at you, but I’d rather all of the nonsensical stuff was thrown at us in quick succession over the last half hour, rather than incrementing the silliness levels in half hour segments.

But, it does not, and for my liking at least, gives us rather too long to think about what it’s proposing, and the myriad reasons it makes no sense in its own internal logic, let alone scientifically. I can’t really describe any of that without being too spoiler-y, so you’ll just have to trust me. I’m quite trustworthy.

It’s, more or less, that one structural decision that holes the rest of the film, for me. Everything else, more or less, works quite well, and it’s an unusually assured outing for Jordan Peele. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it works better when it’s being funny than being scary, and indeed is funny enough that I can almost recommend it on that basis alone.

I suppose, its worth pointing out again that I’m just generally less enamoured about the concept of “horror movies” in general, to the extent that it’s only the absolute best that I like. On this calibration scale, this suggests that this is not an all-time classic, but for those audiences more forgiving of the genre, a very solid outing.

And of course, by far the most fanciful suggestion in this movie is that people would willingly use Windows Mobile phones in 2017. Now, that really would require brainwashing.